Expression of complete SIV p27 Gag and HIV gp120 engineered outer domains targeted by broadly neutralizing antibodies in live rubella vectors.
Infection with HIV or SIV often elicits a potent immune response to viral antigens. This includes T cells and antibodies specific for Gag and Env antigens. In contrast, when given as a vaccine, the same antigens have been weak immunogens, unable to elicit antibodies with comparable titer, durability, or neutralizing activity. We have used the live attenuated rubella vaccine strain RA27/3 as a viral vector to express HIV and SIV antigens. By mimicking an HIV infection, these vectors could elicit stronger and more durable immunity to HIV antigens. The vectors are based on the licensed rubella vaccine strain, which has demonstrated safety and potency in millions of children. One or two doses protect for life against rubella infection. The question was whether rubella vectors could similarly enhance the immunogenicity of a foreign vaccine insert. We have previously reported that rubella vectors can express small protein antigens in vitro and in vivo, where they elicit a strong immune response to the vaccine insert. The vectors have now expressed larger vaccine inserts that include epitope-rich fragments of the Gag matrix and capsid proteins (aa 41-211) or the complete p27 capsid protein with p2 (aa 136-381). These vectors have elicited a robust and durable immune response to Gag in rhesus macaques. This size range also encompasses the engineered outer domain (eOD) of HIV envelope gp120 (172 amino acids). The rubella/eOD-GT6 and GT8 vectors stably expressed glycoproteins that bind germline precursors and mature forms of VRC01-class broadly neutralizing antibodies. These vectors potentially could be used as part of a sequential immunization strategy to initiate the production of broadly neutralizing antibodies.
Virnik, K; Nesti, E; Dail, C; Hockenbury, M; Ni, Y; Felber, BK; Schief, WR; Berkower, I
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